Basketballer dunks, footballer takes a free kick, weightlifter snatches, gymnast flips, boxer knocks his opponent out with a hook, cricketer hits a big six, volleyballer smashes, sprinter sprints, shot-putter throws, and they all use the same component of fitness – POWER. In a nutshell, power is responsible for all the big moments that we enjoy while watching sports. It boosts the tempo, gives an adrenaline rush, and at times also gives us goosebumps. Power is entertainment. Power is action. Power is the life of the sports. A major portion of an athlete’s athleticism is dependent on just power.
In part 1, I told you about the three exercises you can do to develop maximal strength – Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press. These are powerlifting movements. They make you strong. I also told you, in order to increase muscle mass bodybuilders follow a different training regime. That means a muscular man can lack strength if he only trains for hypertrophy and not for strength. Similarly, a strong man (powerlifter) can lack power if he trains only for strength. I don’t know why they are called powerlifters, they should be called strength-lifters. Anyway, maximal strength training lays the foundation for power. But most of the powerlifters suck at explosive movements because they hardly train for power. Not their fault. It’s not the demand of the sport. But in every other sport on the planet, it doesn’t matter even if you can deadlift 1,000 lbs. If you can’t convert the strength into power, that strength doesn’t mean shit. Period.
Just to give you an idea, strength is the big stone you throw at somebody. It does some serious damage. But power is the small bullet that you fire from a pistol. It doesn’t damage. It kills. Power always beats strength. In a fistfight, a guy half your size can easily beat you if he has been training for power and you haven’t. Strength is the money in the bank, power is your debit card. Maximal Strength is only used in the sport of powerlifting. In all the other sport, you need explosiveness and speed.
Have you ever wondered why weightlifting (Snatch, Clean & Jerk) is in the Olympics but powerlifting is not? One of the many reasons is that powerlifting is not athletic. To the general population, both of them (powerlifters and weightlifters) lift weights, so they are the same. Except they are not. Weightlifters are far superior athletes. They just don’t lift weights, their vertical jumps and short sprints are better than most of the athletes out there. Olympic lifts build neuromuscular coordination, improve proprioception and kinesthesia, balance, and speed-strength (power). Now you must be thinking that I hate powerlifting. I don’t. Nothing can beat powerlifting when it comes to developing maximal strength. Olympic lifts build speed-strength. I’m repeating again, “strength training lays the foundation for power.” So it doesn’t matter what sport you play, powerlifting movements and Olympic lifts must always be a part of your training regime.
Power = Force x Speed
Power is the product of strength and speed.
Speed = Distance / Time
That means power is inversely proportional to time. Ergo, power (speed-strength) is the maximum amount of force your muscles can produce as fast as possible. Power is the ability of your muscles to contract quickly. Now there are three types of power.
- Starting Strength : Initial velocity before any movement is always 0. Starting strength is about producing maximal force from a static position. And your body does that by recruiting as many muscle fibres (as possible) as quickly as possible. The starting position in 100 m sprints, vertical jumps, Olympic lifts, they all start from a static position.
- Acceleration Strength (Explosive Strength) : It’s kind of a follow through. Like in a throwing event in track & field, the thrower continues the movement even after the release of the implement. So the force keeps developing throughout the entire movement. It’s the ability to sustain the initial recruitment of muscle fibres till the point the force keeps increasing and reaches its peak.
- Reactive Strength : When an athlete suddenly changes direction while running, there is a rapid switch from the eccentric (lengthening of muscles) to concentric (shortening of muscles) contraction. It’s absorbing force in one direction and exploding in the other. Another good example is taking off while jumping.
The three best ways to develop power are
- Olympic Lifts
- Clean & Jerk
- All the jumps like depth jump, broad jump
- Medicine Ball Throws
- Explosive versions of body-weight exercises like clap push-ups
- Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT)
- Using weighted chains or elastic bands to add resistance to the bar
When training for power, the intensity should be between 40-70% of 1RM. Number of sets between 2-5 and number of repetitions per set must not exceed 6. Optimal rest period between sets is 2-3 minutes. The repetitions should be performed at maximum speed.